Screen shot 2012-10-03 at 10.59.19 AM guest post by Jeff Riddle, Client Experience Specialist, ReTargeter

Many companies, particularly in the technology space, are focused on building technology at the expense of service, leading them to miss out on a major opportunity to build meaningful client relationships.

While technology is essential, the human element is a fundamental market differentiator in a commoditized economy where every company looks the same to the consumer. If done well, your personalized efforts will pay off in client referrals.

For most businesses, client referrals tend to be more profitable, because they spend more and stay longer. But most importantly, if a client is willing to risk their reputation by referring your company, it’s a strong indicator that you’re doing something right.

Here are three basic principles to help you increase your client referrals: 

Three Principles of Referrals

Referral Principle #1: Give more value than your clients pay for

People are naturally motivated to share things of value with their friends and associates, but only if they have something worth sharing. 

The Referral Formula:  Referrals = (Value Received) – (Value Given)

When your clients receive more value than they pay for, they refer.  Giving value can be as simple as saying thank you, calling your clients on their birthdays, or in many cases, delivering exactly what you say you’re going to deliver.  Your goal should be to exceed client expectations at every opportunity.

Encourage your team to be creative and have fun building value whenever and however they want. You can use Salesforce, for example, to track all of your interactions so you can measure the impact against tangible metrics such as referrals, share of wallet, and lifetime value.

Referral Principle #2: Let your clients do the selling

When your clients are actively engaged in the referral process, the likelihood their introductions turn into business increases drastically. Try to make it as easy as possible for clients by offering to write the introduction email for them.

To make it more efficient for your team, load the template into canned responses in Gmail and Salesforce.

Referral Principle #3: Say thank you!

Whether by email, phone, or handwritten note, always make sure to thank your clients immediately following a referral.

This step is crucial because you want to be sure to show the person referring you that you appreciate their endorsement regardless of whether the deal closes, and because it increases their motivation to refer you again.

When a deal does eventually close, follow up again to thank your referring clients. Always try to take a personalized approach. You can use tools like Mingly and Rapportive to gather personal insight about the client or partner that referred you. You can also encourage your team to fill out personal information in Salesforce discovered using these tools or during client interactions. The more personal data you have, the more creative and personalized you can be in how you show your appreciation and gratitude for referrals.

Process Follows Culture

A successful referral business is only possible when process follows culture. Clients see right through these tactics if your “delights” aren’t genuine, your requests for their support aren’t thoughtful, and your thank you notes and gifts are contrived. You can use tools and strategies to optimize for referrals, but your success will never be possible without a culture that is committed to building long-term relationships and a team excited to represent you.

Just keep in mind that whatever tools and processes you implement, Building a referral driven business through meaningful client relationships will always be more art than science.